In-Depth Guide on Buying a Pre-loved Smartphone

In-Depth Guide on Buying a Pre-loved Smartphone

Not all of us have sufficient moolah to buy a brand new smartphone. As such, some of us resort to buying used or, as some sellers would love to call it, pre-loved handsets either from an acquaintance or from one of the gazillion sellers on various online buy-and-sell platforms. If it’s really inevitable to go down this road, here are some tips that may be useful on your next second-hand smartphone purchase.

On our previous post, we’ve covered some of the basic stuff that you need to keep in mind when purchasing used gadgets online. While that may be helpful on most, if not all of your transactions, we thought of giving you guys a more specific set of tips when you’re planning to buy a used smartphone, particularly from an online seller.

Ask for further information, preferably during meetups. While some sellers provide all of the information you need to know about the smartphone that they’re selling, some of them don’t. So never be ashamed of asking related questions about the product that you’re eyeing before you make a payment.

Here are some FAQ that worked for me when purchasing smartphones in the past:

  • What is your RFS or Reason/s For Selling?
  • When and where did you purchase this smartphone? (Ask for a receipt if possible)
  • Have you encountered any issues with the device?
  • Did this unit undergo repair in the past? (If yes, ask the seller what was repaired)
  • Have you dropped the phone in the past?
  • Don’t expect all of the sellers to be totally honest with their answers because, after all, they just want to close the deal as soon as possible, even to the extent of lying through their teeth. So while asking a set of questions regarding the product may help, it’s always best to verify their answer by inspecting the device more thoroughly.

    Research on the device. Not all devices are created equal, and in some cases there are units that belong to a batch that suffers from an issue that are not present on other models. As such, we highly suggest that you research about the model of the device that you’ll be purchasing and take note of the IMEI/Serial numbers of the devices that were known/reported to be inferior to other model.

    Once you have that information, here are a set of codes that you can type on the device to see if it belongs to the “bad batch”.

    *#*#4636#*#* – Phone, Battery & Wi-Fi Information, as well as Usage Statistics and Battery History
    *#06# – check IMEI number
    *#12580*369# – complete software and hardware information
    *#*#1111#*#* – FTA software version
    *#*#2222#*#* – FTA HW Version

    RELATED: Mobile Phone Codes You Did Not Know Existed

    Take a really close look at the device. Whenever a good sum of money is involved, it never hurts to be a little extra careful before you make any sort of payment. That being said, you should really be keen on inspecting the device for any damages or possible red flags that was not mentioned on the seller’s post.

    [Image Credit]

    One of the best ways to check if the smartphone you’re going to buy is in tip-top condition (unless otherwise stated on the seller’s post) is to have an idea of how a brand new one look like. You can do so by visiting websites, or by doing familiarizing yourself with the device (same model that you’re going to buy) by going to a retailer store or a one of the local telcos that usually display the device that they are offering.

  • Check every nooks and crannies
  • Check for dents and other physical imperfections that may possibly be a result of a mishandling.
  • If possible, take out the battery and check if it’s also in good condition. And while you’re at it, check out the tiny screws (if there are any) inside to see if there have been an effort to open the device.
  • Check the condition of flaps/cover that hides the SIM/MicroSD card slots. On some models, check if copper contact points on the SIM card slot aren’t bent or damage.
  • Test if all of the physical buttons are working. Also check if these buttons still provide a nice tactile feedback when pressed.
  • Double-check warranty claim. Checking the warranty of the device is probably the easiest thing to do in all of the tips we have here, if you’re buying an iPhone that is. You just need to get the serial number of the unit and key in that information on this website and you’re done.

    If you are, however, looking to buy a pre-loved Android smartphone, then it’s a little bit tricky. You can always ask the seller for a receipt or a warranty card for the unit, but other than that there’s really no easy way to see if the smartphone really does have a few months of warranty on it.

    Verify if the phone is rooted/jailbroken. In most cases, the benefits of rooting/jailbreaking a smartphone outweighs the drawbacks of not doing it. Besides, if the seller is knowledgeable enough, then chances are they’d be able to return the phone to its original state.

    There are, however, instances that rooting/jailbreaking may potentially affect your decision on whether or not you should buy the device, especially if the seller claims that the unit still has warranty. In any case, here are some of tips you can do to check if it the unit is rooted or not.

  • Check if Android Phone is Rooted
  • Check if iPhone is Jailbroken
  • Check if the phone is GSM (Galing Sa Magnanakaw). As the old adage goes, if the price is too good to be true, then it probably is. If you see a smartphone that doesn’t come with a box, charger and earhphone, and has a lower-than-usual price tag, then it’s likely that you’re dealing with a snatcher.



    Here are some ways you check if the smartphone is stolen:

  • How to Check if an iPhone is Stolen
  • Unlike Apple mobile devices, finding out whether or not an Android device is stolen is more tedious, but you can follow these steps to verify if it is stolen or not.
  • Look out for any issues with the display. Unless you’re buying a feature phone, you should really be anal about the screen of the device you’re going to purchase. While scratches and shattered glass are easily identifiable, there are other issues that you need to look in to.

    Here are some of things you can do to ensure that the display has no issues.

  • Inspect the screen for stuck or dead pixels:
  • Dead Pixel Test for iPhone
    Dead Pixel Test for iPhone for Android

  • Run a Touchscreen test:
  • For Android: *#*#2663#*#* or *#*#2664#*#* (more codes here)
    For iPhone

    Check the condition of the ports and slots. The state of the ports and slots are not as easy to check as compared to other external components of the device. Thus, it’s best to have the necessary things handy during meet-ups.

  • Bring a SIM card. If the device is carrier unlocked, try to bring a variety of SIM cards from different telcos to see if the handset will identify each of them.
  • Bring an earphone to test the audio jack.
  • Agree on a meeting place that has a power outlet to check if both the bundled charger and the actual smartphone have no charging issues.
  • Diagnose the connectivity components. Certified geeks will have no problems identifying an issue with the handset’s wireless features. If you are, however, just a regular user, then this cheat sheet would come in handy to test the handset for any issue.

  • Wireless LAN or Wi-Fi test:
  • *#*#232339#*#*
    Try to connect to Wi-Fi hotspot if applicable.

  • Bluetooth Test:
  • *#*#232331#*#*
    Try to transfer a file over Bluetooth

  • GPS Test:
  • *#*#1472365#*#*

  • Bring a data-enabled SIM card to test mobile data of the handset. An LTE SIM card will also come in handy if you want to test the LTE connectivity of the handset.
  • Make sure though that the location of the agreed meeting place has good signal coverage. Most of the time it’s really not the handset that’s at fault, but rather the service provider.
  • Place a call using the smartphone that you’re eyeing. Not only will this test the smartphone’s ability to pick-up a signal, but also check the microphone and earpiece of the device.
  • Test the battery (or at least have an idea of its status). Apart from doing a visual inspection and testing out if it charges properly, there are other ways to check the condition of the battery of the smartphone that you’ll potentially going to buy.

    Battery Information

    Type *#*#4636#*#* on the phone’s dialer then select “Battery Information”. In there, you’ll have an overview of the unit’s battery and other useful information about it.

    Check the camera. There’s actually not a whole of things you can do about the camera. Usually it’s either the smartphone that you’re going to buy does or doesn’t have a good camera. In any case, it’s still best to check the camera unit just to be sure that it doesn’t have any issues.

  • Inspect the actual camera for any signs of misuse.
  • Take a few photos/videos in various lighting conditions using both the front and rear cameras.
  • Zoom in on the picture to see if there are abnormalities on the resulting picture (Note: we’re not talking about ghosts).
  • If you’ve done your research ahead of time and found out that some models suffer from camera issues, you can check out if the unit being sold belongs to that group by typing *#*#34971539#*#* on the phone’s dialer. This will bring up the camera information.
  • Doing all of these precautionary tips does not guarantee that you’ll have a perfect pre-loved smartphone. Regardless of how careful the owner is on their device, there will always be uncontrollable factors that are part of the normal wear and tear.

    These guidelines will, however, allow you to check for any issues that may be caused by the seller and will, ultimately, help you arrive at an educated conclusion on whether to buy the device or not.

    Mobile Phone Codes You Did Not Know Existed
    5 Tips for Buying Used Gadgets Online

    This article was written by Ronnie Bulaong, a special features contributor and correspondent for YugaTech. Follow him on Twitter @turonbulaong.

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    6 Responses

    1. Butt Sniffer says:

      Finally, it’s about time someone wrote about this…

    2. KLC^ says:

      not all codes there are working. some phones like sony xperia are different codes using *#*#7378423*#*# and also look at the mah capacity status, i know some sellers sell this xperia phone because their mah capacity in their phone are below the normal level

      ps. my english sucks but im try to help.

    3. James says:

      Yes, it is very helpful of this post. But for someone new, he would bring a little cheat sheet and do everything in this post, by then, the seller would either get intimidated or fall asleep but money ain’t easy… so, buy a brand new instead?

      • wew says:

        Tatagal lang naman ito ng kalahating oras more or less kaya hindi naman siguro maiinip masyado ang seller. Kung bigla siyang umayaw dahil “sobrang choosy” ng buyer, problema na niya yun. Baka may itinatago siya kaya di niya mapacheck ng malaliman sa buyer.

    4. Angel says:

      Doesn’t work

    5. ivan sarmiento says:

      Buy from a credible or trusted seller.. Look for his/her feedbacks..

      If unsure about the seller’s credibility, always look for items with remaining shop warranty and official receipt..

      It may take some time to find a credible and trusted seller or an item with remaining shop warranty and official receipt, but it worth it than finding yourself buying an unworthy items..

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